I kind of picture Murder by Death singer-guitarist Adam Turla, after his 2009 solitary songwriting stint, stumbling out of Appalachia with 11 new songs like Moses descending from Mt. Sinai with the 10 commandments. Scruffy. Even sandal-clad. Hoisting a notepad above his head. “The rip will be sewn up again by the same hand that had it torn,” sayeth Murder by Death. I’m also guessing whatever magic Turla found in the Tennessee mountains had a cork in it. You can practically feel the condensation of the shot glass on your fingertips when listening to the raucous “As Long As There Is Whiskey in the World.” Yes, Murder by Death’s Good Morning, Magpie has songs for every occasion, from drinking oneself into a human puddle to shaving with a straight-edged razor in the woods.
But more importantly, Magpie does the best job of any of the band’s albums seamlessly navigating their diverse influences — indie-rock and Americana among them. With it, Murder by Death has reached a place where they’re best understood in the context of their own body of work — in other words, they’re simply incomparable. They’ve even stumped my iTunes Genius. Stand-outs on Magpie include “Piece by Piece,” surely timed in sync with the squeaking hinge of a saloon door, and the titular track, which showcases their knack for emotionally rich, sophisticated arrangements. Also of note are the uncharacteristically jubilant “Foxglove” and “You Don’t Miss Twice” (Tennessee moonshine, I tell you). — Cynthia Hawkins